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VALERIE SCHULTZ: The supply chain of faith

Valerie Schultz

Valerie Schultz

The supply chain is something many of us have never thought about or even heard of before, but news about it is in our faces now. Between the COVID-19 pandemic closing down the world for over a year and chronic labor shortages in the U.S. and around the globe, American consumers are not enjoying the same instant access to stuff that we have come to expect. I mean, what’s with the delay in my next-day delivery of dog food? I’m not used to waiting or having to think ahead. I’m used to ordering something with a click and receiving it in a day.

The experts explain that the supply chain begins with supply and ends with demand. In between those two poles are all kinds of situations that they call bottlenecks. Around the world, raw materials are hard to come by. Essential parts are in short supply. The shipping routes are overcrowded.

Some problems are geographically specific: In China, for example, power shortages have curtailed the production of goods, whereas in the United Kingdom, the distribution of goods is jammed up by a lack of truck drivers. Meanwhile, the demand for things has not been pent-up, as people have used their quarantine time to do a lot of home improvement and other projects. Then, as that insatiable demand outpaces available supply, prices go up. And we all know what that feels like.

All these supply chain worries and woes add up to the fear that this year, Christmas will be ruined.

But before we raise the Christmas alarms that the cargo ships loaded with great things we want to buy won’t get unloaded, and the great things we want to give each other won’t get distributed, let’s spare a thought for the spirit of Christmas. Advent begins tomorrow, along with the biggest shopping season of the year. Will Christmas really be ruined if we can’t find the latest tech and toys? If we believe that, we are forgetting the deeper meaning of Christmas.

And maybe that’s because the supply chain of our faith has also been disrupted. We haven’t been able to go to church regularly. We haven’t been able to volunteer in the ministries that speak to us. We haven’t been able to gather, or receive the sacraments, or be a community in the flesh. We’ve mostly been holed up in our little domestic churches. As a result, our practice of faith may be a little worse for wear. I know mine is.

We know that the material supply chain will be restored as soon as each cog in the system is aligned to work together smoothly and straighten the path of the whole endeavor. The supply chain of faith is similar. The pipeline from God to us can become clogged or broken, the signals lost or misinterpreted, the flow hampered or interrupted by outside forces. We may be trapped in the bottleneck of doubt.

So it is a blessing that Advent is here. Since Advent is the start of the liturgical year, maybe it can also signal the beginning of a clearer connection to God. Advent is a time of waiting, but also a dawning of hope, a hope engendered by the imminent arrival of the savior. It is a good time, as we emerge from our pandemic isolation, to take stock of the supply chain of our faith. Where has God’s light been dimmed in the eyes of our hearts? Where has God’s calling gone unheard in the noise of our daily lives? Where has God’s goodness been stymied by our behavior? Where has the Gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ, gotten bogged down or lost in translation?

Each one of us, as a beloved child of God, is an essential component in the supply chain of faith. We humans are the holy link between heaven and earth. As we prepare to celebrate the moment of the incarnation, of God becoming one of us and fulfilling the promise of faith, may we open the sacred lines between God and us. The Christmas present we owe each other is not stuck on a container ship in a port. It is the simple gift of love.

Email contributing columnist Valerie Schultz at The views expressed here are her own.

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